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Hannibal Brooks

Other // Unrated // July 28, 2020
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted July 24, 2020 | E-mail the Author

The Movie:

Directed by Michael Winner and released in 1969, Hannibal Brooks takes place during the Second World War and revolves around a British soldier named Stephen Brooks (Oliver Reed) who we meet on a prison train travelling through Nazi Germany. On said train, he makes the acquaintance of Pack (Michael Pollard), an American soldier who dreams of escaping despite the fact that failed escapees are frequently shot for their efforts.

When the men arrive at Stalag 17, Brooks and a few others are sent to do manual labor at a nearby zoo, Brooks himself tasked with caring for an elephant named Lucy after being trained by a German zoo employee. Brooks, quite understandably, isn't happy about this. An animal the size of an elephant makes a lot of… waste and a big part of Brooks' responsibilities include cleaning up after Lucy in that department. When a bombing raid by allied forces leaves some of the animals dead and the rest needing to be evacuated, it's decided that Lucy will be shipped off by train to Austria under the watchful eye of S.S. Colonel von Haller (Wolfgang Preiss), who cracks a joke about Brooks being welcome to walk the elephant all the way if he'd rather. At that point, Brooks decides that yes, he would prefer to walk the elephant to Austria and, with two guards, Willi (Helmuth Lohner) and Kurt (Peter Carsten), and a polish woman named Vronia (Karin Baal) to cook for them, he's allowed to do just that.

As could probably imagine, walking an elephant across the Alps from Munich to Austria isn't at all easy… particularly when you try to turn it into an escape plan.

Not meant to be taken seriously, this is a fun watch. Winner's direction is pretty tight, he controls the pacing quite effectively, and he does a fine job of balancing the tone of the film's humor with the occasional scenes of action and drama. Additionally, the production values are quite strong, meaning that the movie always looks nice (the locations used for the film are excellent) and that it features frequently impressive cinematography and a pretty rousing score. The costuming is also quite good, as is the set design and the overall attention to detail that we see up there on the screen. If it isn't a masterpiece, is it certainly a good way to spend an hour and forty-one minutes with some fine entertainment.

And it'll come as a surprise to no one that Oliver Reed dominates the film. His performance as Brooks is a strong one, and he makes the most out of a role that really lets him use his frequently bombastic screen presence to create a character that works for him. It's also interesting and definitely unique to get to see his character bond with Lucy the elephant over time in the movie. Brooks is a bit of a smart ass at times, as Reed was in real life, and his character's blatant and obvious disrespect for authority figures suits the actor's demeanor pretty much perfectly. Michael Pollard also does a more than decent job in his part, while supporting work from Preiss, Lohner, Baal and Cartsen is also quite good. The cast all deliver in this picture.

It might not be deep, but Hannibal Brooks tells a good story, is well-directed and features some very fine acting and strong production values. Suspend your disbelief and enjoy!

The Video:

Hannibal Brooks comes to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen, taking up just under 32GBs of space on the 50GB disc. Overall, picture quality here is very strong. Detail is impressive and there's a lot of depth to the image. Skin tones look nice and natural and color reproduction looks great. There's nice texture noticeable throughout the presentation and black levels are nice and deep. There are a few small white specks here and there but otherwise, the image is clean, retaining the expected amount of natural film grain but showing very little damage aside from that. There are no issues with any noise reduction or edge enhancement and the transfer is free of noticeable compression problems.

The Audio:

The only audio option on for the feature version of the movie is a 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track in the film's native English language and it sounds very good, properly balanced and allowing for the score to show off some depth. Dialogue is clear throughout, there are no problems with any hiss or distortion to gripe about. This all sounds very nice. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

The Extras:

Trailers are included for the feature as well as for The System, Burnt Offerings, The Hunting Party and The Nightcomers as well as menus and chapter selection. That's it, as far as extra features go.


Hannibal Brooks is perfectly enjoyable light entertainment, a goofy mix of action and comedy highlighted by Reed's charming lead performance. This isn't a movie that will change your life, but it is one that will keep you amused for an hour and forty one minutes. Kino's Blu-ray release is light on extra features but it does look and sound very nice indeed. Recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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